How to Prepare for Going on the GAPS Diet

meat broth and squash2

Bone broth, meat and squash. The foods we seem to live on in the early stages of GAPS!

Just today I was over at a friend’s house and as I said “no thank you” to the offer of coffee, I casually mentioned we had just started a special diet. She asked which one, and (as a mom of children with special needs) when I said the GAPS diet, she responded with a knowing “Ohhh. I’ve heard of it, but it’s way too intense for me.”

Yes, I agree. It really is intense. And work intensive. But thankfully, still entirely possible!

I’m sure it helps that we’ve done umpteen special diets since I first became interested in nutrition about 7 or 8 years ago. Raw diets, vegetarian diets, the Maker’s Diet, the Nourishing Traditions/Weston Price diet (our usual diet, which I often write about), gluten and dairy free diets… we’ve done it all.

Still, the GAPS diet was daunting even for me when I first began learning about it. I firmly believed that is was an excellent diet with significant benefits, and also that it would benefit our family in particular. Even so, it still took me a month or two of studying it to warm up to the idea of doing it.

We did it for two months last spring and were thrilled with the results. We stopped (a bit sadly) because we were preparing to move, trying to publish my book and launch a new website, and it was all just too much for me. I then took another 7 months off of it, as I dealt with an overloaded schedule, which led to burnout, depression and fatigue.

Now, after many months of desiring to get back onto the GAPS diet, we’ve made the leap and started up again. This time, however, I was much more prepared to do it than I was the first time. I remembered the initial days of hunger and frustration on the Intro diet. I remembered all of the kitchen work and food prep required. I remembered the bizarre shopping carts full of squash, apples and the like.

It’s So Much Easier When You’re Prepared

Really, truly.

For the two weeks leading up to our GAPS start date, I’ve been slowly but steadily making preparations that have already made our re-introduction far smoother than last time.

Here are my suggestions for getting ready to go on GAPS (or SCD or the Maker’s Diet or any other grain-free and different-than-normal diet):

Stock your freezer with bone broth.

I spent a day making 3 huge stock pots of beef bone broth (yes, 3!) and then the next day when it was cool, removed the beef tallow and stored all the broth in glass mason jars in my freezer. A few days later, I made a whole bunch of chicken broth and did the same. I think I made about 30 quarts of broth. You might think that’s excessive, but for a family of 5 on GAPS, it’s not at all.

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Image by missmeng

Stock up on squash, then cook it or peel and chop, then freeze it.

At the market earlier this month, I picked up 3 large buttercup squash, 4 butternut squash, and 4 spaghetti squash (the cashier looked at me and said, “wow, you must really like squash!”). With the buttercup squash, I baked it in the oven, and when it was cool I scooped out all the soft flesh into a bowl, then divided it up into bags of about 1 cup each. This is perfect for making meatballs, squash “pancakes”, adding to soup, etc.

With the butternut squash, I peeled it all and then chopped it into french fry shaped pieces. These I froze in large ziploc bags, and they will make lunches and dinners so much easier with our beloved squash fries. The spaghetti squash we like to eat with a tomato and meat sauce.

Fill your freezer with grass-fed meats and poultry.

At the end of December, I got a new partial side of grass-fed beef. I still had just a couple whole chickens left in the freezer, as well as extra carcasses for broth. Then I went and spent almost $100 on nitrate-free, grass-fed sausages, bacon, etc. Now I just need to go pick up some extra fish. To stay full on GAPS, you will need to eat a lot of meat and fish, probably some at almost every meal.

Pre-cook that meat and freeze it in meal-sized packages.

I did a delicious (huge) roast in the crockpot, and froze all of the leftovers into bags of about 1 or 1 1/2 cups of chopped meat. I pre-cooked 4 lbs of ground beef and froze them in the same size amounts. I pre-cooked a whole chicken and froze 4 bags of chopped chicken. Tomorrow I’m making squash meatballs to freeze as well.

frozen apples

Frozen apple slices, ready to be sauteed

Peel and freeze apples

One of the first foods that we start eating on the diet (after the initial soups) is cooked apples. I fry them in a pan with no oil, and just a few tablespoons of water, with a lid over them. They take about 3-6 minutes to soften nicely. I sprinkle just a touch of cinnamon on them towards the end. They’re our favorite treat in the beginning when we can eat nothing else, and they’re nice for breakfast with eggs. I make the prep much easier by peeling and slicing a lot of apples for the freezer all at once. These can also be quickly cooked into applesauce, if desired.

Blow all your money at the produce market.

This isn’t quite true, but almost. I usually spend $35 every two weeks on the bulk of our produce. This last time, I spent $100. Granted, that included a big box 20 lb box of apples, 25 lbs of organic carrots, and all those squash (and, I didn’t spend much on so many of the usual foods that we eat). I also purchased a mammoth supply of Intro-friendly vegetables to add to soups and stews, like zucchini, onions, leeks, celeriac or celery root (again, a nice celery substitute), turnips, parsnips, cucumber, beets, cauliflower, etc.

Make soups for the freezer.

If you have the time to do this at all, it’s a great idea. Making soup from scratch can take a while, when you need to chop everything up and let it simmer. Make a batch or two in advance so that you have some you can simply thaw for busy days or when you’re running low on time. Shortly before we began, I made a large pot of Hamburger Soup (a new recipe I came up with that the entire family loved, to be posted soon!) and it helped to make those early (read: hungry) days easier.

Soak and dehydrate nuts and seeds.

This isn’t very time consuming, but it does take several days to do it. One day to soak them, another to dehydrate them. Doing it in advance, when you have a few extra moments in the kitchen will save stress later on.

Make or buy fermented foods like sauerkraut.

We’re using a mix of homemade and store-bought. This summer I made a nice big batch of cortido, a Latin-American version of sauerkraut which we all enjoy a lot. We’ve got lacto-fermented dill pickles left from the summer. I’ve also purchased two other jars of sauerkraut, to keep things simple. We really like Bubbie’s, and also a new brand called Pickled Planet (our favorite is the Dill E Gent flavor– so good!)

sauerkrauts

Above All Else… Meal Plan

One of the hardest things about restrictive diets is the frequent hunger that strikes early on, and those desperate feelings of searching through the fridge and cupboards thinking “There’s nothing I can eat!”.

Here’s how I like to meal plan for times like these:

1. Find recipes that look appealing, or ones from my current stash that will work or could be altered.

Grab a scrap piece of paper and write down every possible meal idea or recipe you can come up with (seriously, everything). Scour some websites or blogs for ideas (a few favorites with GAPS friendly recipes include Nourishing Days, Health, Home and Happiness, Pecan Bread and GAPS Guide, and see this post with some of my own ideas and recipes we used).

2. Plan out at least one week (two is even better) with all breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and even snacks.

I don’t always plan breakfasts and lunches when we’re eating our usual diet (I go back and forth, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t). But, when we’re embarking on any sort of special diet, I make a point of doing it, at least until the diet begins to feel more natural.

Don’t be afraid of re-using some of the same meal ideas multiple times. It’s pretty normal when your choices are limited. Try to come up with creative ideas for eating the same foods in unique ways. Eating eggs for every breakfast? Have them fried one day, scrambled with sauerkraut the next, make a veggie omelet another day.

Ready, Set, Go!

When you know what you’re going to eat for each meal and you have many of the components of your meal already prepped, making it through the beginnings of a special diet like GAPS isn’t really that bad at all.

And even if you’re not on GAPS or any other diet, this type of food prep and meal planning always helps to make meals flow easier when you’re a busy mama!

Looking for more GAPS recipes and resources?

Cara from Healthy, Home & Happiness has several amazingly helpful resources for those on GAPS:

  • 30 Days on the GAPS Introduction Diet- What Can I Eat Now? This is an essential guide to helping you get started and get through the chalenging early days and weeks of the intro diet!
  • Grain Free Meal Plans Freezer Cooking Guide. Prepping meals and meal components ahead of time is a HUGE sanity and time saver when you’re doing gaps, and this ebook guides you through the process of stocking your freezer to make life on GAPS easier.
  • Grain-Free Meal Plans. Do you prefer to just let someone else do the thinking and planning for you, and follow along a pre-made menu plan? Then you’ll definitely want to check these GAPS-friendly plans out.

Are you on any special diets? What types of food prep help to make your meals come together easier?

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links.

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

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Comments

  1. April Jean says:

    I LOVE your website! :) Thanks so much! I’m a little late to the game, but you said above you freeze the pre-cut squash fries and freeze them? Do you then thaw them before baking? Any changes to the original recipe if freezing them in bulk? Thanks again!

  2. Thanks for this! I need to start making some stuff ahead of time. We have beef coming and pork already filling the freezer. I don’t know about fish in small town middle of MO it is pretty much impossible to get decent fish and I do not think it is possible to get any fish with bones without driving a few hours or fishing. We are hoping to start in March. Only my husband will be doing intro I don’t want to do it with my 3 year old and 1 year old and I am pregnant. Not sure how that will work :S

  3. Hi,

    I was wondering if you had any meal plan or week meal plan suggestions for the GAPS intro?

    Very thankful to have come across your site!

    Thanks!

  4. Thanks for the tips.
    How do you store broth in glass jar in the freezer, i did that once and they broke.

    • You need to make sure that you leave at least an inch or two of headspace, and cool them slowly and then thaw them slowly as well. I have started using plastic containers more often, because I have also had a lot of jars break.

  5. Thank you! The great irony of GAPS Diet for my family: a GAPS Mama’s disorganized brain has to make it all happen. Much easier doing intro this time, a year later. Something’s working, here! Great tip on mass stock prep. I’m gonna do it!!

  6. It’s always so great to have an organized list laid out of things I need to do before I get back on GAPS! So THANK YOU! My husband and I attempted GAPS several months ago, rushed through the Intro (yes, I remember that hunger!), and then got lazy and quit. I also kept getting bombarded with the Matt Stone stuff and everyone’s fears that as an adrenal exhaustion patient I wasn’t eating enough carbs. Bleh. Even though we quit GAPS, neither of us have really craved much carbs. Before GAPS we ate TONS of rice and oatmeal. But we never went back to that. Months later, still no cravings. So I’m over the “GAPS doesn’t give you enough carbs Fear.” ;) Besides, I ate honey and drank milk/ kefir like crazy. There’s plenty of carbs in those.
    Anywhoo, thanks for sharing! Now I must try to knock out the prep tasks you mentioned a few days at a time so we can hop back on GAPS and do it right this time.

  7. Thank you for putting this post together. I haven’t bought the book yet, I’m just gathering ideas from people that have already started it. I was vegetarian until about 6 months ago and now I only eat chicken and fish, so the idea of eating all meat and every kind is a little daunting to me. Anyway, this post is very helpful for me.

    Lyza
    Chic Shades of Green

  8. Dorothea says:

    Great article and sooo helpful! I’ve tried to start the Gaps diet a few weeks back and noticed that I wasn’t really prepared – I was forever cooking, haha.
    So I think I might print this and re-organise the freezer.

  9. Stephanie,
    I am starting the GAPS diet on April 1st. I really want to make your hamburger soup, and would appreciate it very much if you could post the recipe whenever you have time.
    Thanks!

  10. Eva Walentek says:

    I worry about to much meat and fat on this diet. How about people with Blood Type A, who should be vegeterian. My cholesterol on Atkin diet shoot to300!

  11. Do you have the gaps book? The website has parsnips on the do not eat list, but I see you have them on your intro soup list. I have two parsnips sitting in my crisper but I’m not sure what to do! I wasnt sure if that was something dealt with in the book. Thank you so much for all of your other helpful posts. My husband is already feeling better ten days in, I’ve lost a few pounds, and our kids who aren’t following the diet still ask for broth and soup evey day. I do want to get the book, but haven’t made the time to order it yet.

  12. I’ve been researching the GAPS diet for a little while now, to try with both myself and my autistic son who has gastrointestinal issues. The one thing that has prevented me from starting it yet is that a lot of the baked good recipes that are allowed on the diet use coconut flour. My son does fine with almond flour, but anything that has coconut in it causes him to start wheezing. Do you have any suggestions for a different type of flour to use as a replacement, or should I just stick to recipes that only use almond flour?

    • @Ashley, I would stick with nut flours then if there is any noticeable reaction to the coconut. He might have a particular sensitivity to coconut, so definitely avoid and don’t try again for a while. You don’t have to do only almond (although it is very nice), but you can also do flours made with cashews, pecans, hazlenuts, etc. As long as he can handle those nuts, they should be fine.

  13. I stumbled across your website in an effort to learn more about the GAPS diet. I have an almost 4 year old, a 2 year old and a 7 month old. I want to do the diet for my 4′s eczema and behavior, my 2′s behavior, my husbands heart burn, and my bloating, eczema which got worse after having the baby, aches, dry skin. I am exclusively nursing the baby and plan on doing this until she is one year. Can I do this diet if I drink TONS of water with it so my toxins come out through my urine and not breast milk? I think this diet will be great for my kids too, but know I will have to “fight” them to consume the soups. Any suggestions? Thank you so much for reading this and any guidance you can give. :)

    • @Lisa, I think that you can still do the diet, but I would put off the intro for yourself until you wean. You can detox pretty heavily while you’re on the intro. Instead, do the intro for the others and include some foods from the full diet for yourself to keep your own body from reacting as strongly. You’ll still have a healing response and it will be positive, but it just might not be as fast or obvious at first. Once you’ve weaned, then you can go back and do the intro to really complete the healing process.

  14. Wow this has been so helpful. We are on the GAPS diet and I rushed to quickly through the steps, and am now going back to step 1. Thank you so much for taking the time to post on this. Have you or could you post some soup recipes? I’m glad to hear others are doing the diet, because no one that I know is! I really need to utilize the freezer as you have done! Thanks again!

  15. Hi Stephanie!

    Thanks for a great post, we are 4 weeks into the GAPS diet, and need some help prepping so we don’t end up cooking 2.5 hours – every night! It is exhausting but I know it’s worth it. One question though: my daughter (22 months) is a very picky eater (which is typical for children with GAPS) and every day she eats butternut squash soup (I hide all sorts of good meat, fats, and protein in there to keep it slightly varied), but I am worried that the butternut squash might be too sweet, as we are also on a anti-candida diet. She eats it every day, usually for snack too. Am I to worry you think?

    Thanks for your great blog!
    Sophie

  16. For children with apraxia and adhd, are they recommended to stay on the diet forever or grain free forever?

  17. what a beautiful post, I am just starting my research for GAPS and am happy I found your blog and am happy to hear you are nursing doing it too, as I will be as well. thanks!

  18. Would you recommend Clomid for someone who has PCOS? I’ve tried everything from herbs to a real food diet and nothing is helping me ovulate. I hate thinking I have to take a medicine to make my body work, but I’m at my wit’s end. Should I take the Clomid?

    • Jen, I hope you’re still out there. I was shown to have PCOS last year and have since delved into finding out what I could do for it. The cysts are caused by androgens, a male hormone that is present in the female body naturally but will go into overproduction if there is an insulin imbalance. So if your blood sugar is off, you can only rely on your hormones to sort themselves out. I (and probably most women with PCOS) also have a low thyroid, and therefore my hormones are not strong enough to sort things out, so everything is kaput. Your thyroid is controlled by your pituitary gland and hypothalamus. If those are “off” or undernourished, then it trickles down into all sorts of problems.
      If you have not tried the GAPS diet specifically yet, I just want to say that from everything I have heard and seen, especially research correlations, it should correct it. I am going to be starting GAPS myself soon, and healing the gut will then get proper nutrients to the brain, which will sort everything else out. It will take strict dedication and maybe quite some time. But it can only help…
      I don’t update my blog very often, but if you wanted to start with me and compare results on GAPS or anything else PCOS related, you can contact me through there. <3
      Joy in the Journey,
      -Breaker K.

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